Stopping “free” trade or starting racism?

brexit-1486647_1280Is Britain’s decision to exit the EU good news or bad for progressives in Canada and the rest of the world?

Those of us on the left have long opposed so-called free trade agreements. We fought the good fight against Brian Mulroney’s NAFTA and we are opposed, with good reason, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently on the table. Some people are therefore suggesting that Britain’s withdrawal from the EU and the subsequent withdrawal from European trade agreements means the tide is turning in our favour. I fundamentally disagree.

I’m sad to say that the prime motivator for the leave campaign in Britain was not a critical analysis of trade agreements. Instead, it was based on racism, xenophobia, nationalism and a host of other very negative factors.

I do believe, however, there’s a big lesson for us progressives to learn from the British referendum. We must be ever-vigilant within our movement to absolutely prevent the kind of opposition to corporate trade agreements that’s founded on gaining oxygen from the ugly head of racism that, unfortunately, lurks just below the surface in some corners of the anti-corporate trade movement.

You see, we have a very strong argument to make against corporate trade agreements — these so-called free trade agreements — in that they are much more in the vein of corporate bills of rights than free trade. These agreements are built in such a way they remove and/or eliminate the ability of governments to make use of health, safety, and environmental regulations. So they’re not really about free trade per se — that is, lowering or eliminating tariffs — but rather clearing away the health, safety and environmental regulations we’ve fought so long and so hard to achieve.

Let’s not ever allow the ugly head of nationalistic, racist policies to hijack our very principled and intellectually sound movement.

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3 Responses to Stopping “free” trade or starting racism?

  1. Alex B says:

    With all due respect, HOW did you come to those conclusions when you are not in UK, haven’t interviewed or polled people yourself or are part of the political scene in UK? This whole notion that people who voted out are racists is completely and utterly ridiculous, and in itself RACIST!

    I have zero doubt some racists voted the same way, but to call 17.5M people, some that I know personally, the biggest EVER voting block in history of UK, racist, is absolutely disgraceful and simply wrong! People voted for dozens of different reason, trade, crazy EU regulations, extreme EU bureaucracy, mass immigration, refugee crisis, losing jobs due to trade, losing UK judicial power to EU, and worries about terrorists walking into UK from free borders and a lot more. You cannot just simplify things like that. That’s why most progressive movements are LOSING around the world, as people are Sick and tired of political correctness nonsense and being called xenophobe, racist, masognist, etc for simply stating an opinion or for loving the country traditions! Oh, btw, I’m an immigrant and brown guy – so leave your racist comments aside.

  2. Eric O'Dell says:

    There was most certainly a racist element to the leave campaign. The official comments were veiled but they were enough to stir up some of the sordid underbelly of the racist movement. Perhaps there is some “political correctness” involved in avoiding racist comments and hopefully thoughts but if that is the penalty for a fair and just society than that is a penalty I will gladly pay.

  3. Anita Romaniuk says:

    I was in the UK from May 13 to June 15 before leaving for Ireland, and while racism and xenophobia were a factor, I disagree that it was the only one or even the primary one. Everywhere I went, there was a profound undercurrent of alienation of the 98% from the elites. There was distrust of all leaders and parties. Both the Conservative and Labour leaders were in favour of Remaining. Union leaders were by and large in favour. But neither the party leaders nor the union leaders could persuade a significant number of their own supporters to vote to Remain, nevermind anyone else. Even the complaints about immigrants were often underscored by what has happened in the UK since Thatcher took power almost 40 tears ago. The first wave of weakening the unions resulted in the loss of many good paying jobs and then the second wave of globalization outsourced many of the jobs that remain. If working people are underpaid and have little job security, it is understandable that some of them view immigrants as competition for what they still have. In conversations that I had with people, the issue of corrupt politicians answerable to their wealthy backers came up, as did a remote, bloated, and uncaring bureaucracy. “Why should we trust them? They don’t listen to us!”

    I think Canadians might have been hearing a bit too much of Boris Johnson in the media and too little from the people who I think were trying to send the elite a message.

    I don’t necessarily think that Brexit is a good thing; there are pros and cons to the economic and social aspects of the EU. But that is not what drove the 52% who voted to Leave. More a case of being mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. But are the elites getting the message?

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